A policy paper entitled, “Addressing Youth and Cannabis: Solutions to combat and prevent youth misuse through a federal regulatory system” was released by CPEAR on March 16, and reviews data regarding how youth cannabis consumption hasn’t increased since legalization began. The report was also presented during CPEAR’s roundtable event held on March 17, featuring Senator John Hickenlooper, CPEAR Co-Chair Greg Walden and more.
CPEAR Executive Director Andrew Freedman shared in a press release that this report will serve as a guide for community youth prevention and an inspiration for legislators to enact prevention regulations. “Over 100 million Americans live in a state with legalized, adult-use cannabis—but what we should consider is what that means for our nation’s youth,” said Freedman. “This research highlights how preventing youth from using cannabis requires local communities and stakeholders to be at the forefront of this effort. It further outlines the need for congressional action to build a federal cannabis framework rooted in data, correct the current patchwork of cannabis laws, and build preventative measures into place to protect America’s youth from cannabis misuse.”
One of the main topics that the report explores is that youth consumption either “decreases or remains flat in regulated markets.” In reviewing data on consumption of 8th, 10th and 12th graders, the results were fairly steady. “State legalization of cannabis has not, on average impacted the prevalence of cannabis use among adolescents,” the report states. “In other words, states with medical and/or adult use laws are not seeing larger increases in adolescent use relative to states where use remains illegal.” A Monitoring the Future graph shows a dramatic drop in consumption for 12th graders between 1975 and the 1990s (8th and 10th grade data was not collected at that time). All three grades dropped in 2020, most likely due to lack of availability or access to cannabis during the pandemic.
The report also shares that a combination of early prevention methods can continue to see a decrease in youth consumption as well, listing afterschool programs or school prevention programs, counseling opportunities, community initiatives and digital interventions. “The most successful public education campaign to date is the ‘Good to Know’ program that originated in Colorado, which provides evidence-based educational statements about laws and potential health effects of cannabis use in a judgement-free fashion,” the report shared. “A research study found that the campaign not only increased awareness, but significantly increased perceptions of risk associated with CUD, driving under the influence of cannabis, and negative cognitive outcomes associated with cannabis use.” It also proposes that an increase in youth-specific legislation would affect youth consumption rates, especially if more attention was paid to marketing and advertising.
Finally, the report also stated that if illicit cannabis sales were targeted, youth cannabis access would also decrease. “The legal cannabis market increases the availability of high-potency products, which have been associated with an increased risk of psychosis and CUD for some. However, unlike the tobacco and alcohol industries, there remains a pervasive illicit cannabis market that can easily provide youth with access to cannabis,” the report reads. “Cannabis purchased illicitly is more likely to contain contaminants, including other illicit substances relative to products available in a regulated market. Therefore, increased vigilance of legal sales of high-potency products may best balance reducing risks of youth cannabis-related harms.”
CPEAR launched on March 11, 2021 and has acquired member support from tobacco and alcohol companies, such as Altria Client Services, Constellation Brands, Inc., Molson Coors Beverage Company. Many other studies have found the same observations regarding youth cannabis consumption, such as one that was published in the journal Substance Abuse in March 2021 or another published in The American Journal of Public Health in August 2020.